My Teen Vogue Interview
Updated: Jun 11, 2020
- image found on @suewilliamson's Instagram -
The year is 2016. A bright-eyed, freshman girl has just been assigned her final English project. She is instructed to research her dream job, learning about the education, experience, and requirements needed to succeed. She has to find professionals in the field and reach out by email, in hopes of landing interviews with them. Her dream has been to write for Teen Vogue since she discovered the magazine in 2012, at eleven years old. Immediately, she Googles her favorite magazine editors and writers like crazy, trying to find some way to reach out to them. Eventually, she stumbled upon the email address of someone working for Condé Nast. Through this person's email, she pieced the puzzle together and found the email she was really looking for - Elaine Welteroth's. She was nervous. Was she going to get a response back? Was it even the right address? She knew she had to at least give it a shot. For a backup plan, she decided to reach out to other companies and writers that may also take her up on an interview. She was so discouraged when all of them responded with "no's" or with no response at all. In the midst of this discouragement, the notification of a new email popped up on her computer screen. She nearly screamed - THE Elaine Welteroth had emailed her back. Was this a dream? Elaine connected her with her Beauty and Style writer at the time, Sue Williamson, and the interview was in place. This was everything she had hoped for and it was about to happen!
When I look back on this moment, I am still as overjoyed and grateful as I was at fourteen. I had been reading Teen Vogue magazines religiously for three years at that point and all I wanted was to work for them. I already had my questions for their "Ask an Editor" column published in two separate Teen Vogue issues, which was the coolest thing I had ever experienced at the time. Landing this interview with someone who worked at Teen Vogue was everything I had dreamed of!
I am so grateful with how thorough and enthusiastic Sue Williamson was with answering my questions. When I copied and pasted my questions with her answers onto a Google Doc to reference back to, it completely filled up two pages. Most of my peers got back one word to one sentence answers! (Maybe they weren't asking thorough questions, but I heard many talking about how unenthusiastic the interviewees were.) I just can't begin to express how good of an experience I had with Sue Williamson. I wanted to share my interview with her, as I found it super insightful for those who want to get into writing or the fashion journalism career as I do!
1. What's a typical day at the office for you?
There is no typical day at this office, which is part of the fun! Some days I am on set for photo shoots and others I am running around viewing new collections or interviewing people at various places around the city. If I don't have any appointments like that, I come into the office at 9:30 am, have my coffee, look over my to-do list for the day, and check in with my team. The day after that is filled with a lot of meetings (which can cover everything from brainstorming for an upcoming issue to discussing the way a page will look with the art team) and writing. I write for the magazine and the website, so I always have several Word documents open. I go back and forth between about 5 stories at all times. If something interesting happens in the fashion or beauty world, I may have to stop whatever it is I'm doing to write a news post, so we can inform our readers as quickly as possible. There never really is a dull moment, but that's what makes it fun. I usually go pick up lunch in the cafeteria with my co-workers and we eat at our desks (unless it's a really beautiful day outside), and I leave to go home around 7 or 7:30pm, unless there is an event I need to attend on behalf of the team.
2. What classes or schools would you suggest for somebody who wants to be in your occupation?
Journalism, writing, and English classes are all very important if you want to be a writer or editor. But even more than school, the internships I did in college prepared me most for this job. It's really important to be immersed in the field you want to write about, so any classes or internships you can take to educate yourself about that would be vital. Knowing I was interested in fashion, I took a lot of fashion history courses in college, as well as art history and writing, which taught meow to describe minute details other people might not catch.
I would also suggest looking into a school in the city you want to live in after college. I grew up in a small town in Tennessee, but knew I wanted to live in New York. Attending college in Brooklyn helped me get used to the city and meet people. I went to an art school called Pratt Institute and got to meet tons of photographers, designers, and writers, many of whom have become my colleagues and subjects!
3. What kind of activities and skills would be looked for or appreciated in someone wanting this job?
Passion is probably the greatest skill a magazine editor can have. Not every day is super glamorous. The hours can be long and the work is hard, so you really have to love what you're doing. I'm really lucky that all of my coworkers love and care about Teen Vogue as much as I do, it makes my job much easier and I hope the readers know we really care about it and them. I think being a Teen Vogue reader for as long as I have been is one of the reasons I got this job. Knowing a magazine's history and past issues is a must.
The greatest advice I have ever been given (or could give) is, "Work hard, be nice." No matter what field you're in, whether you're a doctor or an editor, people want to work with nice people! No matter what you've read or seen in movies, the way to the top is not to push everyone else down around you.
Aside from that, time management, confidence, and creativity are all vital. I am constantly being asked for ideas and solutions to problems, so it's important to be able to come up with creative ideas at the drop of a hat.
Finally, being different can be a great advantage. I have worked as a stylist's assistant, in retail, as a window decorator, and in public relations, which are not usually pre-requisites for the job I have now. I tried out many different things to see what I really wanted to do, but I realize now that all those strange, various jobs have actually given me a more well-rounded view of the industry!
4. What are the do's and don'ts of your job?
The do's are:
Have a great attitude.
Don't get discouraged if someone tells you, "no." I submit so many ideas and, sadly, they're not all winners! It can be hard to hear that someone doesn't like your idea, but you have to remember that you are creating a magazine for many people, not just yourself!
Be respectful. Your boss got where she was for a reason, so never forget that and try to watch and learn as much as possible.
Speak up when appropriate. Sometimes it's scary, but if you have a great idea go for it.
Write thank you notes after an interview. I used to draw pictures on the front of mine and the interviewers always remembered me for it!
Do follow celebrities, editors, and brands on social media so you can stay on top of the latest news. Some of our story ideas come from scrolling Instagram and Snapchat!
Do present yourself well on social media. You never know who is watching or looking up to you.
Do make sure your phone is charged and your recorder has space on it if you need to interview someone!
The don'ts are:
Don't forget to check your spelling! It's so important.
Don't forget you are a part of a team.
Don't be on your cell phone the entire time (unless you're checking out social media for work, of course!).
5. If you made a mistake, how would you handle the situation?
Mistakes happen to everyone, unfortunately. When I make a mistake at work, I take a deep breath and try to figure out a solution to the problem. I always find that it's better to admit right away that I've made a mistake and offer a constructive plan for how to fix it. It's also always important to look at mistakes as learning opportunities and ask yourself, what could I have done differently? How can I avoid something like this in the future?
6. If you could give advice to yourself when you first started your job, what would you say?
Hmmm, this is a very hard question! I think I would say, don't be so hard on yourself! People are always so stressed at the beginning of a job, but you have to remember to take time for yourself. Work is really important and having a job is important, but your personal wellbeing is most important! If you feel like you're not getting a story just right or you feel stressed, go home, do yoga, and restart tomorrow fresh! You will not be a productive employee if you go to work tired from staying up all night worrying! ;)
7. How would you describe your job in one word?
I still can't believe that Elaine Welteroth and Sue Williamson were willing to take a chance on fourteen year old me and make time to respond to me and answer my questions. It just goes to show their true characters and what incredible people they are! I could see their determination and drive in me and I could see my dreams and hopes in them. I've always been so determined to get where I want to be and this opportunity was just the start to finding myself and my path. What started as a possible dream turned into a possible reality - this project and interview helped me navigate where I wanted to go. Through this, I discovered the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, the college I'm about to attend. I discovered what major(s) I should be and what classes I should take to get the correct education and experience. This was a defining moment of realizing my true passion and goals for my future. Have you found a passion you think you could turn into your occupation? What is it? I would love to chat with you all online, @tyrahdae on Instagram and Twitter. I hope those of you that have mentioned your interest in what I'm pursuing were inspired by Sue's answers and learned more about the potential industry you wish to work in! Thank you for reading about my life changing experience from 2016!